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Category — Shale gas

Frac Bounty: All Should Participate (resource creation for economic revival)

Deep Ecology adherents view fossil fuels as evil incarnate, and believe fervently in ‘peak oil’ and Climate Armageddon. They are frustrated that fracking guarantees a hydrocarbon renaissance and predominance for decades to come, and helps reduce carbon dioxide emissions without massive economic sacrifice.”

Anti-energy activists actively promote falsehoods about the vital, safe, job-creating hydraulic fractionation. They inhabit a callous parallel universe to wage war on affordable, plentiful energy–and quality, sustainable jobs. Such a war targets those who need jobs and lower costs the most. 

It is time for all thinking, good people–Democrat and Republican–to welcome the oil and gas treasure unleashed by new technology in every locality and state where private property rights are respected. And, as Bret Stephens wrote in the Wall Street Journal, it is high time for environmentalists to think.

“Ninety-eight Percent Positive”

Signs of pride and prosperity were evident all over Williamsport and the gorgeous northern Pennsylvania countryside around it. Friendly, happy people greeted us. New cars, trucks, hotels and restaurants sparkled in a clean, bustling downtown. New roofs topped barns and houses, while late model tractors worked the fields. Formerly dirt roads are now paved.

Men and women again have high-paying jobs, young people are coming back instead of moving away, their salaries are supporting other businesses and jobs, and many are taking college programs in oilfield technical and business specialties, Vince Matteo told me. As president and CEO of the Williamsport/Lycoming County Chamber of Commerce, he’s witnessed the transformation. [Read more →]

July 25, 2013   1 Comment

Hollywood’s Fractured Logic

One of the most hilarious – if not tragic – events that we as Americans witness is when Hollywood attempts to “inform” the public about energy issues, which often takes the form of fanatical opposition to oil and natural gas development.

During a staged protest against the Keystone XL pipeline this past summer, for example, Daryl Hannah and Margot Kidder were arrested while voicing their disapproval of U.S. infrastructure development. The protest also featured a large, inflatable black tube that was intended to represent the pipeline, although none of the protestors – including Hannah and Kidder – were able to explain the fact that petrochemicals are used to produce both the plastic and the paints used throughout the event.

The reason these events are so laughably absurd is that, in addition to the rank hypocrisy, Hollywood “stars” are attempting to drive the public debate on complex engineering processes, about which they have little to no actual expertise. Instead, the celebrity of their names is leveraged to secure headlines, and the public is left with the impression that there are significant technical concerns – all based on the words and deeds of multi-millionaire actors and actresses.

To be sure, there’s nothing wrong with acting or making films. We all love to go to the movies, and then argue at dinner afterwards about which of the previews were the best. And certainly no one is suggesting these individuals don’t have a right to protest. But we should all be concerned that the fact-based conclusions of engineers, geologists, and other technical experts can all be wiped away by what’s essentially a loudest-voice-wins mentality.

This brings us to the latest Hollywood foray into complex energy issues: the movie Promised Land. [Read more →]

December 28, 2012   2 Comments

America’s Bounty vs. Federal Frac Rules: Will We Lead or Lag the World?

Articles on this blog have consistently made the point that shale gas in the U.S. represents an unprecedented pathway to abundant, low-cost, clean energy supplies. In previous posts it was noted that unconventional gas resources, combined with new production technologies, could potentially break the global oil-natural gas price bond, just as has happened in the U.S.

Shale gas is now subject to active exploration in England, Australia, Poland, Ukraine, China, India, and to a lesser extent, South America. Canada has already moved to the development stage with its shale formations in British Columbia (Montney and Horn River). Mexico shares the prolific Eagle Ford shale formation with Texas, but its state-owned PEMEX has done little to develop that resource yet.

Other nations have rejected the gift of unconventional gas. Romania and Bulgaria, both heavily dependent on Russian gas, have said “no” to shale gas production, as has France. [1]

Even with the dropouts and the laggards the International Energy Agency (IEA) sees unconventional gas comprising more than 30% of total world gas output, up from today’s 11%, by 2035:

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Source: IEA, “WEO 2012 Golden Rules Report, Table 2.4

However, IEA stresses the need to adhere to its ‘Golden Rules” so as to achieve the golden age of gas. [Read more →]

June 29, 2012   No Comments

Greens to Michelle Obama: Ignore Science, Please (anti-shale movement getting desperate)

In the latest attempt by anti-shale activists to obscure the facts and disregard evidence, a group called “The Mother’s Project” recently sponsored an ad in the New York Times calling on First Lady Michelle Obama to do whatever she can to “hit the pause button” on hydraulic fracturing.

The group – which was founded by none other than Angela Monti Fox, the mother of Gasland director Josh Fox – alleges that hydraulic fracturing is causing irreversible environmental damage. One of the activists with the group, Sonia Skakich-Scrima, had this to say about the process:

We’re seeing impacts to ground and surface water across the country and in Colorado. Those you can’t fix, they’re not fixable.

It’s unclear who she is referencing by saying “we,” but she’s certainly not referring to state regulators, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, or scientists who have proper technical expertise.

As the saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Here are a few examples why: [Read more →]

May 17, 2012   5 Comments

Giberson: “Did the Federal Government Invent the Shale Gas Boom?” (December 20 post becomes part of a national debate)

One of the nation’s important energy analysts is Michael Giberson, an economist at the Center for Energy Commerce in the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University. Giberson, who has occasionally posted at MasterResource,  teaches energy courses at Tech such as U.S. Energy Policy and Regulation and Energy Economics.

Giberson is also a principal (with fellow energy expert Lynne Kiesling of Northwestern University) of the energy-centric Knowledge Problem, described as “Commentary on Economics, Information, and Human Action.”

A month ago, Giberson critically reviewed a study by the Breakthrough Institute that claimed, basically, that government energy activism crucially enabled the shale gas (and oil) revolution that is now sweeping much of the United States and many countries around the world.

“New Investigation Finds Decades of Government Funding Behind Shale Revolution,” announced Breakthrough on December 20, adding:

Breakthrough Institute research and interviews show the direct and sustained support federal agencies provided to the gas industry leading up to the modern natural gas revolution.

And virtually on the same day (Giberson was on holiday), a rebuttal came at Knowledge Problem (reprinted with separate comments at  Energy Collective) that is now part of the national debate.

On Tuesday night, the Breakthrough Institute trumpeted Obama’s mention under the headline “Obama’s Energy Revolution,” adding:

In his State of the Union, President Barack Obama referred to the findings of a Breakthrough Institute investigation, which found that 30 years of federal funding led to the shale gas revolution.

Given the high-stakes debate, MasterResource is pleased to repost, in its entirety, Giberson’s analysis–and his challenge for deeper research.  The debate is joined. [Read more →]

January 26, 2012   11 Comments

Shale Gas: Cornell’s GHG Paper Continues to Attract Criticism

For two researchers at Cornell University, it’s turning out to be a very tough year.

Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea released a study this past Spring that found emissions from natural gas produced from shale are worse than coal, based on the global warming potential (GWP) of methane. Since it was released, numerous institutions have weighed in and come to a fairly uniform conclusion: The Howarth/Ingraffea paper simply has too many errors to be credible.

New University of Maryland Study

Nonetheless, ideological opponents of shale gas have continued to wield the Cornell paper as a major weapon against this game changing source of energy. But a new study released by the University of Maryland, The Greenhouse Impact of Unconventional Gas for Electricity Production, suggests that Cornell’s paper has been intellectually superceded.

Among its findings:

“GHG impacts of shale gas are…only 56% that of coal” {p. 1}

“Methane has the ability to trap large amounts of infrared radiation relative to CO2, but it also has a comparatively shorter lifetime in the atmosphere. As a result, methane’s 100 y GWP is much lower than its 20 y GWP.” {p. 5}

“Two factors lead to an overall carbon intensity advantage for gas during the combustion stage. First, gas releases more energy per unit of carbon emitted. Second, the technology used for combustion of gas is more thermodynamically efficient than that used for coal, enabling a larger amount of chemical potential energy in the fuel to be converted to electricity.” {p. 5}

“[A]rguments that shale gas is more polluting than coal are largely unjustified.” {p. 8}

Other Studies [Read more →]

November 2, 2011   7 Comments

The Shale Gas Hit Piece: The New York Times (minus public editor Brisbane) Doubles Down on a Bad Bet

When New York Magazine reported earlier this month that the national editor of  the New York Times had sent an internal memo laying out a “surprisingly detailed” defense of reporter Ian Urbina’s latest front-page attack on natural gas, the hope was that the memo would spur an equally detailed response by Arthur Brisbane, the Times’ public editor.

That hope was realized when Mr. Brisbane’s 1,100-word piece was postedon the paper’s website over the weekend, a column in which Brisbane takes square aim at the Times for going “out on a limb” and “lack[ing] an in-depth dissenting view in the text” (see the Appendix below for more of his piece).

The Brisbane piece is remarkable for a number of reasons and on a number of levels, continuing the healthy scrutiny that spontaneously emerged from various respected experts over the past three weeks.

Just yesterday, in fact, the head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) told the U.S. Senate that “the data clearly show that shale gas is rapidly becoming a significant source of natural gas supply” – a direct hit to the Times. According to POLITICO, he went on to tell the lawmakers that emails from EIA cited by the Times as part of its reporting “came from an entry-level staffer who had been hired as an intern in 2009.”

Digging In and Doubling Down

Notably, as the criticisms of the Times have continued to pile up — most recently from paper itself — the response on the part of the reporter who authored the piece (and the editors who allowed it to run on the paper’s front-page) has been to dig-in and double-down. In an interview on public radio last month, Urbina sought to defend his story by characterizing it simply as a way to advance a “full and candid discussion of all the factors that play into the long-term viability of [natural gas].”

Urbina’s editors took a different tack, basing their defense on the notion that, since it took him six months to do it, and since it includes lots of emails from “industry insiders,” it must be good. Of course, activity isn’t the same thing as achievement. Just like volume isn’t the same thing as veracity.

Brisbane Weighs In [Read more →]

July 20, 2011   8 Comments

Shale Gas and the New York Times: The Challenge from Energy In Depth (A ‘Dewey-Defeats-Truman’ Energy Moment?)

[This factual rebuttal against peak-shale by Chris Tucker and Jeff Eshelman of Energy In Depth (a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, or IPAA) is a serious moment in the energy debate. MasterResource reproduces their rebuttal in total and invites comments, particularly from the 'peak oil' community that received the front page article of their dreams (or nightmares, depending on the ultimate outcome of this fact-versus-fact debate).]

“What [the New York Times] isn’t entitled to, at least in our view, is to represent its piece as an original investigation; not when the story was essentially outsourced to a well-known critic of the industry whose predictions on shale’s imminent collapse grow less defensible (and more difficult to find on his website) by the day. Nor do we believe The Times is entitled to mislead its readers on the expertise of those whose “leaked” emails — many written in 2008 and 2009 – are used to form the basis of the story, especially when real-world production numbers from 2010 and 2011 directly contradict those speculative accounts.”

- Chris Tucker and Eric Jeff Eshelman, June 27, 2011

The United States produced more natural gas in 2010 than at any point in the previous 37 years, a stunning reversal of fortune given the country’s supply picture earlier this decade, and one that could not have been possible without the massive volumes of American energy that continue to be generated from shale.

So what happens from here? By now, you’ve likely heard the stories and seen the estimates: with everyone from IEA to EIA to PGC to MIT projecting a future in which shale’s production trajectory continues along an aggressive upward path, delivering literally quadrillions of cubic feet of clean-burning natural gas to generations of consumers not only in the United States, but around the world. It’s a view that’s supported by the preponderance of science and a majority of scientists, not to mention one that’s continuously reinforced by new data.

Over the weekend, The New York Times sought to advance a contrarian view on the subject, and to that view The Times (and reporter Ian Urbina) is more than entitled. What it’s not entitled to, at least in our view, is to represent its piece as an original investigation; not when the story was essentially outsourced to a well-known critic of the industry whose predictions on shale’s imminent collapse grow less defensible (and more difficult to find on his website) by the day. Nor do we believe The Times is entitled to mislead its readers on the expertise of those whose “leaked” emails — many written in 2008 and 2009 – are used to form the basis of the story, especially when real-world production numbers from 2010 and 2011 directly contradict those speculative accounts.

Against that backdrop, we attempt below to pull back the curtain a bit on some of the tricks employed in The Times’ latest front-page assault on responsible natural gas development: [Read more →]

June 29, 2011   3 Comments

Shale Gas Neo-Malthusianism: Poor Journalism at the ‘Newspaper of Record’

“I’m sorry for you—coming to Texas [in 1915] to look for oil. Don’t you know there is no oil in Texas?!”

- Wallace Pratt (oil and gas geologist), quoted in “Oil Finding—the Way it Was,” Petroleum 2000 Issue, Oil & Gas Journal, August 1977, p. 144.

The New York Times has published two amazing front-page articles on shale gas (here and here), which raise a number of issues about the prospects for the resource, suggesting that the reserves and profitability are vastly overstated. A careful reading of the articles, however, suggests that it is more smoke than fire.

Two specific issues raised in the article are important: the profitability of shale gas wells and their long-term production profiles. Many ancillary issues are also raised but can be dispensed with.

First, the reports that many landowners were not paid the promised bonuses or made much less than expected: this is hardly unusual when a resource boom occurs. Some companies are overly optimistic, rush in with offers that are intended to line up prospects as quickly as possible, then find that they can’t satisfy them.

The method’s use of water and potential contamination are certainly concerns, and is being addressed by the government. While the industry downplays concerns, and much of the coverage is the usual NIMBY hype, it is quite possible that this will add to long-term costs.

The entire articles are very poorly done, making references and implications that are completely unsupported by any real facts. A Fed official is skeptical? Some wells are described as underperforming?

Skepticism, True and False

That there are skeptics is hardly surprising: there are always skeptics, those who grumble about new technologies, who think that claims are overblown, and downplay the long-term success or applicability of techniques that appear promising. [Read more →]

June 28, 2011   8 Comments

Natural Gas: A Better “Climate” Fossil Fuel?

When it comes to climate, are all fossil fuels equal?

“No,” the answer has been until very recently. In terms of how much carbon dioxide (the major force behind the human alteration of the atmospheric greenhouse effect) is produced when burning various fossil fuels to produce a unit amount of energy, there is a definite ranking. From the most CO2 produced to the least, the list goes coal worst, oil next worst, and natural gas least worst.

While it would be stretch to call natural gas the sweetheart of climate-change-fearing environmentalists, many have considered it to be the lesser of the reliable-energy-source evils. Of course, they rally behind the wind and the sun, but even renewable energy idealists understand that there needs to be a bridge between where we are now and where they would like us to be—and that bridge is envisioned to be constructed primarily from natural gas (a foundation furthered by the nuclear problems in Japan).

But a new study out of Cornell University makes the natural gas bridge out to be another Gallopin’ Gertie rather than a secure pathway to the future—at least when it comes to being a climate-change mitigator/savior.

The Climate Impact of Natural Gas

According to the carbon dioxide emissions factors given by the Energy Information Administration (which assume 100% combustion), coal burning emits on average about 95 kilograms (209 lbs) of carbon dioxide per million BTUs produced. Burning oil to produce a million BTUs of energy produces about 20kg less, or about 75 kg (165 lbs) of CO2. And burning natural gas to do the same thing saves you another 20kg, producing only about 55 kg (121 lbs) of carbon dioxide.

So, on the face of things, numbers like these are what make natural gas the darling of climate change mitigators. They see that a switch from coal to natural gas could cut global-warming CO2 emissions by more than 40%. This number falls quite a bit short of the long term goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 80%, but nevertheless it is a big step in the right direction. Thus, natural gas is viewed as a “bridge” to a largely carbon-free energy production—that is, it is a construct which buys time for other technologies to mature and/or be developed. [Read more →]

April 29, 2011   9 Comments